Ozy to shut down after questions about media company’s claims

Ozy is shutting down less than a week after a New York Times column raised questions about the media company’s claims of having millions of viewers and readers, while also pointing out a potential case of securities fraud.

The story triggered canceled shows, an internal investigation, investor concern and high-level departures at the company. Ozy, which launched in 2013, had touted its ability to “being ahead of the curve” and “never [telling] a story that another national or international publication has already covered.”

An emailed statement Friday from Ozy Media’s board called it a company with many “world-class journalists and experienced professionals to whom we owe tremendous gratitude.” It said it was “with the heaviest of hearts that we must announce today that we are closing Ozy’s doors.” 

A who’s who of Silicon Valley and business luminaries have been on Ozy’s board or invested in the company, including Laurene Powell Jobs, a billionaire and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, according to the Times.

The board’s statement did not give the reason for shutting down the Mountain View, California-based company. Ozy didn’t immediately return a request for comment from CBS MoneyWatch.

The Times story said Ozy co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Samir Rao allegedly impersonated a YouTube executive on a call with Goldman Sachs bankers while trying to raise money from the investment bank. The report also addressed long-held industry questions of whether Ozy was inflating its audience size

On Thursday, Marc Lasry, the hedge-fund billionaire and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner who had been named Ozy’s chairman in September, resigned. A high-profile employee, former BBC anchor Katty Kay, resigned earlier in the week, and an early investor, a venture capital firm, gave up its Ozy shares. The board had reportedly hired a law firm to review Ozy’s business activities.

Ozy published stories on its website, made podcasts, newsletters and shows and hosted the OzyFest festival. Its website remained up on Friday afternoon.